alt=”On Sept. 22, 2013, about 100 people attended the Shiprock, N.M., chapter meeting to debate a coal mine purchase. Photo by Marley Shebala ” width=”570″ height=”282″ class=”size-large wp-image-286″ /> On Sept. 22, 2013, about 100 people attended the Shiprock, N.M., chapter meeting to debate a coal mine purchase. Photo by Marley Shebala [/caption]
After the Shiprock Chapter voted to Table the resolution of Dine’ Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, which asked the community’s support for their opposition of the purchase of BHP Billiton coal mine by the Navajo government/Navajo Council, I interviewed the community member, Fannie Atcitty, who asked that Dine CARE’s resolution be Tabled, BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal Assets President Pat Risner, former Navajo Nation Council Delegate Paul George, Dine’ CARE Director Lori Goodman and Dine’ CARE members Adella Yazzie, Sarah White and Lorraine Clauschee.
I was video taping during the presentations by Dine’ CARE and BHP Billiton. Goodman, Yazzie and White made their presentations in the Navajo language and Clauschee made her’s in English. And BHP Billiton Tribal Liasion Norman Benally’s presentation was in the Navajo language.
Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chili” Yazzie gave Dine’ CARE and BHP Billiton ten minutes each to make their presentations. Chapter President Yazzie also advised community members that there would be no debate on Dine’ CARE’s resolution that asked the community to support their opposition to the Navajo Council’s purchase of BHP Billiton coal mine.
The coal mine is located on the New Mexico portion of the Navajo Reservation in the Four Corners area. It is also located near the Four Corners Power Plant. The BHP Billiton coal mine is the sole source of coal for Four Corners Power Plant.
The purchase price for the BHP Billiton coal mine is about $85 million.
In the interview after the Shiprock community tabled the Dine’ CARE resolution, Goodman, Adella Yazzie, and White immediately emphasized that they know who they are. They made that comment after Shiprock President Yazzie stumbled over the wording/language of their resolution as he introduced it to the chapter.
The title of Dine’ CARE’s resolution stated: “Supporting the Dine’ Citizenship Against Ruining our Environment’s (Dine’ CARE) request for the Navajo Nation Council to reject the purchase of BHP Billiton Navajo Mine and to begin transition towards renewable energy on the Navajo Nation for the benefit of future generations…”
The Dine CARE representatives noted that Shiprock President Yazzie re-wrote their resolution and they didn’t see Shiprock President Yazzie’s version of their resolution until a few minutes before the community meeting started.
Their concern over the language was well-founded because it was the language that got their resolution tabled.
Community member Fannie Atcitty explained after the tabling vote that many of the community members are not fluent in the English language and so they have difficulty understanding the meaning of English words. Atcitty noted that she is highly educated in the western society way and so she’s able to interpret English words and concept into the Navajo language so her people thoroughly understand what organizations and groups are asking them to do.
Atcitty noted during the interview and her presentation to the community that Dine’ CARE asked the community to support their request to the Council to reject the purchase of the BHP Billiton Navajo Mine.
But she said in Dine’ CARE’s resolution, they also asked the Council to “consider” the mine purchase but then they ask Shiprock to support their request to the Council to “reject” the coal mine purchase.
Atcitty noted that BHP Billiton has been provided numerous benefits to the community, especially scholarships. Those benefits may not be visible to a lot of community members but BHP has helped the community, she said.Risner said that the BHP’s position on the tribe buying their coal mine remains the s ame. The mine purchase would maintain more than 800 high-paying jobs at the mine and Four Corners Power Plant and it would continue generating revenues for the Navajo Nation.
But during Benally’s ten-minute presentation to the Shiprock community, he touched on the jobs and tribal revenues but he used most of his time to point out to the audience that Dine’ CARE, like the language in their resolution, held contradictory positions when it came to BHP.
Benally said that Dine’ CARE recently sued BHP Billiton to shut it down.
Goodman said that the lawsuit was for the courts to make BHP comply with federal environmental standards and not to shut BHP down. BHP was not in compliance and if they continued to be in non-compliance then they would get shut down and it would not be because of Dine CARE.
She added that Benally accusation that Dine’ CARE refused to meet BHP was also twisting words. Dine’ CARE wanted a public meeting to discuss the concerns of the organization over BHP coal mine operations because the impacts of the operations hit the public.
“We wanted an open public meeting and not a one-on-one meeting between just us and BHP,” Goodman said.
During Dine’ CARE’s ten-minute presentations, the representations talked about the health hazards of coal mining, especially to children and elders, and the deadly impact of climate change, which is primarily created by fossil fuels. Clauschee pointed to the recent flooding in the Boulder, Colo., area and on the Navajo reservation.
Former Council Delegate Paul George said that he’s lived in the Shiprock area all his life and he’s has witnessed a steady increase in asthma cases among the residents. A leading cause of asthma is coal mining and the burning of coal at power plants, George said.